Managing Treatments

Medicine Cabinet Cleanout and Other Ways to Spring Clean Your Cancer Treatment

Spring is a great time to keep your home safe by purging any expired or unlabeled medications. It's a chance to go to your doctor's office and update all your medical information too.
Spring is a great time to keep your home safe by purging any expired or unlabeled medications. It's a chance to go to your doctor's office and update all your medical information too.

Spring is in the air, which means spring cleaning! While you may not feel up to a full spruce of your home, this change of season is the perfect time to review and refresh certain aspects of your cancer treatment plan. From a good medicine cabinet cleanout to a document review, spring cleaning your medical routine keeps everyone in your home as healthy as possible. Here is a checklist to get you started, but remember to spread out your tasks so you don’t feel overwhelmed or exhausted from the experience.

Medicine Cabinet

Start your spring cleaning with a medicine cabinet cleanout. First, take a comprehensive look at the medications — prescription, supplements and over-the-counter treatments — that you have in your home. Pull any expired medications or ones you no longer use, but don’t throw them away or flush them down the toilet. Instead, call your local pharmacy or oncologist to find out how to safely dispose of the medications. Next, find any medicines you have lying around, unlabeled. Even if you’re stickler for keeping medicines in the appropriate container, you may have some unknown pills on your counter or in a pill box. Put these unknown medicines in a zip-close bag, disposing of them along with your expired medications. Finally, collect any medications you no longer use or that may be in the back of the cabinet from months ago.

Prescription Lists

With your medicine cabinet cleanout well on its way, this is also a great time to check your list of current medications on file with your general physician and oncologist. At UVA patients can use MyChart to access this information. When you have the list in front of you, be sure that the medicines you’re taking are all on there, with the correct doses. A comprehensive medication review is not only a smart move during your spring cleaning, but also one that can keep you safe from unwanted medication side effects or issues from not taking medications correctly. Also, let your oncologist know of any vitamins or supplements you’re taking. While your oncologist is likely the driver of your treatment plan, if you find yourself at specialists, surgeons or other clinicians during your treatment, your oncologist may not know what medications or supplements others have recommended, so it’s best to have it all together in one place.

Medical Information

While you are updating your medication record, ask to see the contact information on file, too. Ensure your oncologist has the correct insurance information, emergency contact name and phone number and preferred hospital and pharmacy. Update any other outdated information, as things change from when you initially visited. Once your oncologist’s file is updated and correct, check that your family members and support network have updated information as well. Send out a quick email that has emergency information that your loved ones may need — your oncologist’s name and phone number, emergency contact information and any other pertinent information. Keeping that information in your wallet and purse is also helpful, especially in an emergency.

Legal Documents

Take time during your spring cleaning to review and update any legal documents as well, including a living will, do not resuscitate (DNR) papers or power of attorney (POA) forms. While it’s never pleasant thinking of these scenarios, it’s responsible to review these at least annually so you can make your requests known prior to a serious situation. Also, be sure that any family member or friend who’s mentioned in legal forms is ready for that responsibility. Have those tough conversations if necessary.

It’s important to regularly check your medical information as you’re undergoing treatment. Designating spring as the time of year to focus on these and other “spring cleaning” efforts will encourage you to be sure your health records are up to date every year.

Spring cleaning doesn’t just mean your garage. Take stock of your health and get screened to ensure this spring is the healthiest yet.

Haley Burress
Haley Burress